By the time “Somewhere in Time” came out in 1986, I was well into Iron Maiden. I owned every album available in the States, had read “Running Free,” and took in my very first concert — 1985’s World Slavery Tour. (What a first concert!) Fairly or unfairly, I had high expectations for this next album, feeling that my musical heroes could do no wrong.
I had read that the group would be incorporating a guitar-synth on the next album. I also had heard that Bruce Dickinson wanted to take a different direction and do an acoustic album. What really got me interested was that Adrian Smith was going to take a lead role in some of the songwriting. With having a hand writing songs such as “The Prisoner,” “The Flight of Icarus,” “22 Arcacia Avenue,” and “2 Minutes to Midnight,” I couldn’t wait!
I managed to pick up the cassette on the release date, and was again impressed by yet another Derek Riggs masterpiece. I know I missed out on the album art detail with the cassette, but records were well on their way out at this time, and I wanted to listen to this album on the way home. Those that have the album can see all the little jokes on neon signs and in the storefront windows.
My first impression? I was under-whelmed. The opener “Caught Somewhere in Time” fell somewhat flat — I just couldn’t get into the guitar synths. At that time, some of the other songs seemed like throwaways — “Heaven Can Wait,” “Deja Vu,” “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner,” and “Alexander the Great” really didn’t do much for me. To me, Adrian Smith’s songs were by far the strongest on the album. “Wasted Years” and especially “Sea of Madness” and “Stranger in a Strange Land” really showcase some fine songwriting skills.
I think the album as a whole was a letdown to me because it seemed somewhat uninspired and lacked direction. It wasn’t until years later that I learned there were some creative differences within the band at that time that might have affected the material. I also looked at “Alexander the Great” as an attempt to recapture the lyrical magic of Powerslave’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” Musically, it’s interesting, but lyrically, it fell flat. Coleridge’s epic poem translated much better to music than Plutrarch’s history.
But time has a way of putting things in perspective; and looking back at this album, knowing what was going on within the band at this time, and hearing the music again after all those years, I find I enjoy listening to the whole thing. I still think Adrian’s songs are the strongest, but I have a new appreciation for those songs I kicked to the curb back in ‘86. I will even go as far as saying musically they’ve rarely been in better form on an album.
1986/87’s Somewhere on Tour concert was spectacular — probably better than the World Slavery Tour by a hair. Flying spaceships, Bruce’s pulsing neon-tube vest, and a robot Eddie…what’s there not to like? I found the SIT songs translated very well live — even with the synth guitars. I remember Adrian and Dave performing a really cool guitar-duet they called “Walking on Glass.” A top notch show.
For me, this one ranks three and a quarter stars. Almost four, but not quite.